Giro Stage 3 Preview

The first of three consecutive sprint stages, each day has a climb towards the finish to derail sprint trains.

Oropa Express: there was a fight to get in the doomed breakaway with Ineos and UAE filtering the riders trying to go clear and then leading the chase. After Filippo Fiorelli did enough to defend his ciclamino points jersey. Andrea Piccolo took off solo but was caught at the foot of the Oropa climb.

If Ineos pulled for most of the day, UAE had taken over late in the stage but Tadej Pogačar punctured, then crashed and chased to get back. It was all rather reminiscent of Pantani in 1999 with the team time trial chase before the solo effort up the climb.

Sure enough Majka pulled over and Pogačar launched with 4.5km to go and Ben O’Connor went with him. It wasn’t that mad for the Australian as the slope would ease and if he could have followed he’d have got a first class ticket to the finish. Only couldn’t hold the wheel and alas the O’Connor’s epitaph for the day was “tried to follow Pogačar” and he’d lose a minute.

Pogačar was clear and once again left everyone thumbing their thesaurus in search of new superlatives.

Dani Martinez was the best of the rest, led in by work from a sparkling Florian Lipowitz with Geraint Thomas pacing himself in a way that O’Connor had not. Only ten riders were within a minute of Pogačar.

Is the Giro over? RAI’s pundits were asking this aloud on TV. In one weekend the likes of Arensman, Dunbar, Bardet, Tiberi and Plapp have lost minutes. Each an individual setback, collectively a change in the balance of the race already.

The Route: 166km across the plains. There’s not a lot to write home about here but let’s note the intermediate sprint in Masio of all places. A bend in the road, a sprint point today… but also where RCS boss Urbano Cairo, introduced on Stage 1, grew up. A coincidence? Probably not.

The Finish: Fossano isn’t really a hilltop town but the race crosses the Stura river and then starts climbing for 1.5km at around 5%. It’s all on a wide road, this is no charge through the medieval ramparts. This can still cause problems for some sprinters. Once in town there’s a 270° bend which leads to the final straight on a big wide road.

The Contenders: there are so many sprinters it’s hard to pick between them but the climb before the finish can help with the triage. Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease A Bike) has the sprint and the athleticism; but he crashed yesterday. As we saw in Paris-Nice a few hills don’t trouble him and his speed on the flat can rival anyone. He’s also got a very solid lead out train which should help but today’s climb will cause problems for all, this is where the likes of Christophe Laporte comes in as normally he’ll survive the climb, indeed he’s a sprint option of Kooij is done for.

Still this is an open finish, run the stage again and again and there would be several winners. Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceunink) has won uphill sprints. At his best Caleb Ewan (Jayco) can thrive in a finish like this. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) was beating Mathieu van der Poel at his own game two years ago. A year ago Ethan Vernon (IPT) was winning sprints in Romandie when many sprinters were dropped.

On paper Fabio Jakobsen (DSM Firmenich-PostNL) could the fastest rider in a normal sprint but he was going backwards on the climbs of Turkey 10 days ago; team mate Tobias Lund Andresen was both quick and at ease on the climbs.

It’s a test for Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) and Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quickstep) as they pack the speed but their build is a penalty for the climb. And there are many more sprinters in the race today.

Kooij, Ewan, Groves, Milan
Vernon, Milan, Merlier, Lund, Girmay

Weather: some sunshine, 20°C.

TV: KM0 is at 1.25pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in for the finish to see trains jostle for position ahead of the climb into town.

Postcard from Alba
Places like Monferrato and Asti are on the route today and on wine menus all year. The race also passes through Cinzano which shares its name with the vermouth drink but this brand was first produced by the Cinzano brothers of Turin. There’s a cycling connection of sorts as the brand features in the 1979 film “Breaking Away” as the sponsor of an Italian cycling team.

Vermouth is produced with wine as the main ingredient and then blended with alcohol and various herbs and spices including wormwood, Wermut in German, from which the drink gets its name. It’s been a way, whisper it, to get rid of unwanted wine, a technique used in many places.

Now winegrowers in the region are uprooting vines to plant hazelnut groves. It’s all because of demand from the confectioner Ferrero, whose HQ is in Alba on today’s route. It makes Nutella and other delights where hazelnuts are the key ingredient. Demand for Nutella has gone global and while the company sources a lot of nuts from Turkey, the effect on the countryside today is notable, look for the rows of young trees. Ferrero used to be a big sponsor of Italian cycling, and the Giro, too.

45 thoughts on “Giro Stage 3 Preview”

  1. Picturesque backdrop, perfect weather and good roads have made for a first rate start to this Giro. There may not be a lot of mystery surrounding the likely GC winner but there is interest behind and the sprinters will get their share of the spotlight … so far, so good.

  2. Arensman’s father was reported by the Cyclism’actu site as blaming his son’s poor performance on Ineos training methods. There might be a grain of truth but the public criticism appears unwise. Will Arensman be seeking fresh pastures?

    • Arensman’s coach is the same one from when he was at DSM, presumably Arensman asked to continue to work with him as part of his Ineos deal. The responsibility for that decision falls squarely on Arensman, not Ineos.

      • This is true. The one potential caveat concerns all of the recent changes at Ineos and the possibility that the team may be demanding that Arensman deviate from his traditional training regimen in certain respects. Otherwise, I fail to see an explanation for the father’s comments as dad would surely know that Arensman has continued to train with the same coach that dates back to the DSM years.

        • Could the explanation simply just be that dad tweeted before working through his emotions having just seen his son drop out of contention on stage one?

  3. Very exciting first couple of stages! Hopefully things will calm down a bit now, it’s a long three weeks as a fan 🙂

    Lots of people saying that Ineos tactics were stupid yesterday, apparently pulling to defend and honour the jersey rather than thinking long term about GC in Rome strategy. Thomas said in post race interview that they were just trying to stay out of trouble by being on the front. What do readers think, sensible safety first approach or DS fail playing into UAEs hands?

    • A cyclist saying ‘we were at the front to stay out of trouble’ is up there in terms of insight with a footballer saying ’we’re just taking it one game at a time.’

    • A bit of a gift to UAE but they did have the overall lead and didn’t want to lose it to the breakaway. Plus pulling on the front is what Ineos do, see the Sky years or Romandie recently. UAE still took over and went through their riders in quick order.

    • Honestly don’t understand the objections to their approach. I’m not usually a fan of “Sky train” tactics, but it was one relatively straightforward day, it’s the Giro, and there are a few sprint stages coming up anyway, which makes the next few days quite easy for Ineos and UEA. Honouring the jersey in the country of a major sponsor seems sensible and it didn’t seem to impact their results.

      • If they’re fundamentally riding for 2nd (or 1st if something happens to Pog) then their tactics were OK, if a bit unambitious.

        If they were really riding to win, they’d be making UAE do all the work, stage after stage, and hoping the cumulative fatigue would tell in the end.

        Narvaez was never, ever going to keep the lead yesterday. As our host says, riding on the front is What They Do, whenever there’s half a reason to. But given how much resource and planning goes into every other aspect of racing, the fact that they’re so conservative and unimaginative when it comes to tactics is fairly odd.

  4. Seems like they rode it fairly well? Set a tempo that suited Thomas, who was able to snipe some seconds and finish well on the stage. Didn’t make the mistake of pursuing Pog (Thomas knows better than that), and moved up on GC. Seems like they rode their own race and probably achieved what they wanted, which was probably also the most they could achieve.

    I don’t expect it, but would love to see Girmay do well today.

  5. What about Pithie for a single ring? He should cope with the rise and some of his dedicated team will do so too while other lead outs may falter.

  6. Did you mock up the chocolate ad? Because that bears an uncanny resemblance to Pog, with the tufts of hair and the big grin!

    I used to be involved in the advertising for Cinzano, and they claimed that the ‘herbs and spices from five Continents’ were medicinal in origin. Nicer than Wincarnis Tonic Wine , anyway.

    Thank you for the blog, your guide to the route is far more entertaining than the official Turismo.

  7. Surely after another rider got burned by trying “to get close to the sun” (as someone said about trying to follow Pogi), the willingness to try to follow any Pogi attack decreases more and more? I guess at some point it will even get easier for Pogi to get away in these situations.

    • I remember Jai Hindley in a podcast interview saying “you don’t go” when Pogačar and Roglič attacked because their moves are too hard to follow. Sometimes big attacks can plateau so it pays to sit and then ride steady and get across to them but with Pogačar he accelerates and then once the attack is done his pace sees him taking more time, so there’s the sense of “now or never”. O’Connor got schooled yesterday but he wasn’t far off reaching flatter slopes and being able to draft and at least get towed part of the way to the finish but even trying this put him in a red. As said in the pre race preview he’s exciting to watch but sometimes his aggression is his weakness too.

  8. I might be wrong, but I think that Pogi attacked 4.5 km from the line rather than at the – 3.5 km point. Just after the cobble section was over, Majka pulled further for less than a minute, essentially the very first acceleration of a few hundreds metres as the road started to go up again, then Pogi went. Which makes less of a good idea to try and hold his wheel, as the distance to the flatter section was the same as San Vito… but with no descent afterwards. Yet, you never know, courage must be appreciated, the Giro is stil long and O’Connor might take back time from the rest of rivals later on, so, why not? Surely G. played his hand better, no doubt either.

    Pogi wanted to deliver a serious blow, but without taking any risk or producing an exaggerate effort (for him). He went very hard but then looked in control.

  9. Assuming he manages to stay upright there seems little doubt over who is going to win. The rider that has impressed me is Geraint Thomas. Throughout his career he has always been under appreciated and “unfashionable” yet when pretty much all of his contemporaries are sitting in the studio / commentating from a moto or carving out careers as DS’s G is still there at the sharp end of a GT. There is a case to be made that he is the best of the “Sky” generation of Brits. If he can keep going for the three weeks he might find that there is a vacancy on the top step

  10. Good 2nd for Thomas but I still don’t get Ineos’ Tactics. Surely allowing a breakaway and with UAE pulling would have garnered the same time difference but saved Ineos’ legs. Still, a long way to go for everyone.

  11. I read a long in-depth interview with Pogi’s new coach Javier Sola (hope it won’t be a nomen omen in Italian o__o).

    He says (obviously not necessarily telling the truth) that they chose this year because there are more days between Giro and Tour. The Giro won’t be treated as a traditional performance peak but as a “special” training block in itself, followed by a long “assimilation” which they also consider important for mental freshness, which will be paramount in Pogačar’s case. In fact, they believe that “his body” could already go and try to win three GTs in a single season, but mentally it’s (still?) way too much.
    Besides a long series of aspects in which Pogi’s physiology looks exceptional, starting with lactate metabolism and including effectiveness in processing feeding, Sola highlights as the most shocking for him personally how fast Tadej gets in top shape, which is also the reason why they programmed this way the Giro-TDF challenge. He loves pasta and pizza and is often allowed the lattee ^___^

    *If* the above was true, the Giro could be really challenging for the technical staff in the sense that efforts should be carefully calculated when you are “training”, you can’t just tell your athlete to go full gas and give it all in some key moments. Also strategy becomes more complicated, because when a dominant leader is on a weaker team the obvious solution is marking personally every move, but this of course doesn’t necessarily make for a good training (depending on the creativity of your rivals).
    However, in modern cycling this attitude is actually closer to the traditional approach until the early 90s (more or less successful examples by Indurain, Lemond, Hinault, Fignon etc.) rather than what we then saw from Pantani, Contador, Froome, Dumoulin (Rominger having probably been the first already in the 90s).

    • You might think this is a part of the imagined quasi-wittgenstein mindgame I’m apparently playing – but actually I just wanted to say I enjoyed reading this and glad you took the time to post. Have a great day out there in Spain.

      • I’ve never been talking of mindgames of sort and other things you’re worried about, just pointing out what isn’t exact in a given comment, which sometimes might happen to be yours, especially if it ain’t a question of “opinions”.

        As in this case.

        I’m in Italy now ^___^

  12. By the way, the Oropa stage broke the 2M spectators mark. So yesterday’s wasn’t any football effect, after all. Rather a Pogačar effect (in Italy some foreign champions have often been better received than many a national hero) and two very well-designed stages.

    I guess that they “bought” Pogi’s card also with the cashflow from the ES exclusive deal, but I still believe its a lost opportunity not to work on bigger figures on an European scale thanks to public/free broadcasters, especially as we aren’t speaking of mere theory but actual solid “blocks” of 1M or more spectators both in France and in Spain.

    Whatever, it’s a matter of strategic options and they picked theirs (trying to be big at home, niche for hardcore fans abroad… what I’m afraid of is that when you’re niche abroad, soon you become less relevant for foreign teams, athletes and sponsors, hence without stars it will be hard to stay big even in Italy itself).

  13. A few years ago Trentin could have been on IR’s selection. Maybe he still should be but then, as IR states, so many are possible.

    • I really like Trentin.
      He’s just one of those unfortunate riders who’s excellent but is always behind about five other good riders, and missed his big chance at the Worlds a few years ago. Those kind of riders seem to get one shot at a huge win (Matt Goss, Gerald Ciolek, Matt Hayman, VanSummeren spring to mind recently) and they either take it or not. Although in Trentin’s case, similar to maybe Van Marcke at Roubaix, the rider he was beaten by was simply better on the day so hopefully that means it stings less.

  14. TDK made a comment in the preview in response to others saying it was a badly designed route that in recent times making routes easier, shorter or with fewer uphill finishes so the racing continues into the downhill etc etc, whether in tours or one day races, has made for more exciting racing (Amstel probably being the most obvious example) and he was holding out/reserving judgement that the route might surprise people.

    I expected more people to have a similar view or agree with TDK and while this year might be Pogcinerated, the route might still give good racing and the Giro’s new direction might sow seeds this year that begin to bear fruit next year.

    In all honesty I struggle to remember a Giro I didn’t enjoy outside of Wk1 so am on the fence whether this new change from the Giro being ‘the hardest race on the calendar’ if this years changes continue, is good or not but I found the first two stages extremely enjoyable.

    Let’s see in the sprint stages can hold up the standard even if that’s might be doubtful.

    What an amazing country Italy is though.

    • Well, as I made that comment I should say something … that was really about no matter what the parcours someone will complain. That’s not a bad thing, all it shows is that different people want different things in a Grand Tour (I have my own preferences of course). Mixing things up can be a good thing, a GT doesn’t have to be essentially the same every year. And the race itself doesn’t always correlate with the parcours, of course, and there are many different races (and stories) in a GT.

      Early days yet, but so far, I like what I see. I like Pog throwing out the script on how to race a GT. I like seeing the maglia rosa with a bit of (occasionally injudicious) spontaneity and trust in his ability. What was it he said after Oropa? You don’t need a power meter to climb? I like seeing GT and O’Connor rising to the challenge so early in the race. Whether or not the top step of the podium is done and dusted there are potentially any number of compelling stories to come in the next 2 1/2 weeks. I look forward to them all.

      • Tudor sure, I understand but VF and Polti? Luckily the stage turned interesting or I’d start withholding appearance fees 🙂

        • VF had the points jersey today. Fiorelli was in a break for 99km in St.1, yesterday too, today also, and he solo attacked even from the breakaway until a mechanical stopped him. Polti’s Davide Bais was in the break yesterday…

          So I don’t understand the criticism. Also we’re just in day 3, there are still enough stages to go in a break. Come back with your wildcard team critic after 3 weeks and we’ll see.

  15. Dunbar out due to knee damage from crash on Sunday. With 15th on first stage he was looking in good shape to equal or better last years 7th gc. A career beset with crashes & illness unfortunately.

    • Carr out with knee troubles too. Were there not signs before the start and, if so, why was he picked for an arduous three week stage race? Strange.

  16. Interesting stage – was expecting to tune into some relatively mundane commentary but lots happened to keep the race interesting.

    Factiod of the day: Torsten Traeen managed to finish 172nd three days in a row.

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